Danny Schechter writes:
In 1960, I was fixated on emulating the courageous media personalities of the times, from Edward R. Murrow to a distinctive figure I came to admire at presidential press conferences – a wire service reporter named Helen Thomas.
In recent years, my faith in the power of dialogue in politics has been severely tested – as, no doubt has hers – in an age where diatribes and deliberate demonization chills debate and exchanges of opposing views.
Once you are labeled and stereotyped – especially if you are denounced as an anti-Semite – you are relegated to the fringes, pronounced a hater beyond redemption, and even beyond explanation.
As the legendary Helen Thomas soon found out.
The rise of a legend
As a member in good standing of an activist generation, I saw myself more as an outsider in contrast to Helen’s distinctive credentials as an insider, as a White House bureau chief and later as the dean of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Yet, beneath her establishment credentials and status, she was always an outsider too – one of nine children born to a family of Lebanese immigrants in Winchester Kentucky, who despite their Middle East origins were Christians in the Greek Orthodox Church.
She became a woman who broke the glass ceiling in the clubby, mostly male, inside-the-beltway world of big egos and self-important media prima donnas.
Her origins were more modest. She grew up in an ethnic neighborhood in Detroit.
Helen received her bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in 1942, the year I was born. Earlier this year, her alma mater, of which she had taken so much pride in her achievements, canceled the award in her name.
A fall from grace
The withdrawal of her name from the prominent award was a striking gesture of cowardice and submission to an incident blown out of proportion that instantly turned Helen from a ‘she-ro’ to a zero.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center put her on their top ten list of anti-Semites after angry remarks she made about Israel went viral and exploded into a major story.
President Barack Obama who cheerfully brought her a birthday cake, later labeled her remarks as “reprehensible”.
You would think that given all the vicious ad hominems, Godwins and putdowns directed at him, he would be more cautious tossing slurs at others.
But no, all politicians pander to deflect criticism whenever the wind of enmity blows their way.
Now it was Helen who was being compared to Hitler in the latest furor. [Continue reading.]